The recent insolvency of the Urbancorp builder group, and its impact on hundreds of would-be home buyers who wanted to complete their sales deal, has highlighted some gaps in the Tarion warranty coverage available to Ontario consumers.
Tarion recommended that homebuyers in Urbancorp projects “should retain legal counsel so that they are aware of all of their legal options.” It’s a sad situation when the warranty program will not stand behind the Urbancorp buyers but instead urges them to get involved in the delay, expense and frustration of the court system.
Last fall the Ontario government appointed retired associate chief justice J. Douglas Cunningham as a special adviser “to review protections for owners of new homes and identify opportunities to improve consumer protection measures.”
This past April and May, the Cunningham inquiry conducted a series of invitation-only focus groups. These groups were termed “industry consultation sessions.”
As well, two sets of industry and public sessions were held in nine cities around the province. Unfortunately, they were not well publicized and not all stakeholders were made aware of the opportunity to make presentations.
In December, Toronto real estate lawyer Mark Morris wrote Cunningham, asking to make a presentation about Tarion shortcomings. He was advised “we will be in touch with you once we have our schedule in place.”
In March, he asked again and received no response. Finally, last week he was told that the industry consultations have been concluded although email input is still welcome.
The plan is to release an interim report early in summer. It will be posted on the website for the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, and the public will have an opportunity to comment in writing before the final report is released next fall.
Here are a few recommendations I hope will make their way into the Cunningham report:
Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer and frequent speaker to groups of home buyers and real estate agents.
He can be reached by email at email@example.com, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818.
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